Blanc Follows on the Heels of Noir
The sheer number of wine grape varietals must be overwhelming for most wine drinkers to contemplate. Even an experienced winemaker can be stumped when you ask them about Italian varietals, which in some regions can number in the hundreds of obscure clones that are only known regionally. And let’s not even start talking about Hungary or Croatia. Consumers are more used to choosing between a few flavors of soft drink, not the multitude of options available in the wine section of their grocery store. So with that in mind, here we go again.
Lumen brought in its very first load of Grenache Blanc this morning (pictured above in the vineyard before it was picked). Grenache Blanc is a close relative of Grenache (or Grenache Noir as it is known in France), and like its cousin, originated in Spain but found more fame across the Pyrennees in France. Here in California, it seems to have found a suitable home on the Central Coast, most notably in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. The varietal produces a rich, full-bodied white wine with crisp acidity and bright fruit flavors.
Lane and I fell in love with Grenache Noir last year with the 2013 harvest. This was the first time that Lane had ever worked with Grenache, and its subtlety and mysterious qualities intrigued her. Lane loves a challenge, and Grenache has provided her with one. Grenache Blanc seemed like an obvious next step. It’s a great Chardonnay alternative, just like Grenache Noir is a great Pinot alternative.
The first good Californian Grenache Blanc that I ever tasted was in the early 1990’s, when my father and I visited Tablas Creek in Paso Robles. Tablas had made a small amount of 100% GB as an experiment, and we thought it was the best wine of the tasting. Later on I had the pleasure of swirling Kris Curran’s Grenache Blanc and realized what potential the varietal has here in Santa Barbara County. I was hooked.
Grenache Blanc is a slight genetic variation on its red counterpart, much like Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are variations on their famous cousin Pinot Noir. Lane and I sourced our grapes from the same vineyard that Curran produced many of her famous vintages: Camp Four in Los Olivos. The vineyard site has perfect conditions for growing this grape, with warm days and cool nights, allowing us to pick with lower sugars than is normally characteristic of this varietal, along with bright acidity.
We know that wine can sometimes be confusing, because there is so much to learn and so much to choose from. It’s not always black-and-white. Just trust that Lumen will provide your senses with a pleasurable experience. We will most likely release our new white in the spring of 2015, so don’t miss out!
– Will Henry